Through the Eyes of Walter Van Beirendonck

January 19, 2023

The rainbow eye

Forty years ago, Walter Van Beirendonck launched his eponymous label. Who has forgotten “Kiss the Future,” inspired by the artist Orlan (1998), or else “Dream The Work Awake” (2011) at the Antwerp Fashion Museum? The beard is grey, but the eye twinkles, alert in all colours. “Before, it was pure hope, we were completely free. Nowadays, the messages tend to be ‘watch out’!”

Yet nothing seems to alter the vision of this former member of the Antwerp Six, a teacher still holding onto the wonder of the student he used to be. “I have always seen the world in colour. Black is only one of them.” Even today, with his collection presented at the Salle Wagram, a place that was once chosen by Alexander McQueen, Martine Sitbon and Jean Paul Gaultier, he projects Winter into a neo fantasy galaxy, where the manga exoskeletons, inflated like life preservers, express a specific vision of the planet. The eye is everywhere. In capital letters, it sets the tone for the winter: “We need your eyes to see the future.” Woven, knitted, inspired by the mosaics of the cathedral of Ortrante, the work of the monk Pantaleone (1160), illustrating legends and tales, but also the legend of King Arthur. A way for the designer to tackle the pressure of political correctness. 

In an era suffused with images, could salvation come from the eye? No doubt, in the eyes of Van Beireindonck; the eye allows us to question our certainties, to choose the handmade rather than the icy, robotic perfection of artificial intelligence. He concludes, “To be free, to remain flexible, the key is to see within ourselves, and to take a look around us.”

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